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Alaska lowdown
Glacier and Icebergs in Early Morning, Tracey Arm, Alaska. Picture: Nancy Ross/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Because of the extreme climate, Alaska's cruise season is limited to May to September, though a few sailings stray into late April and early October.

Canada and Alaska Guide:
TOP TOURS
CANADA LOWDOWN
BEAUTY OF THE 49TH STATE

Most cruises are seven to 14 days long and they usually follow one of two main routes, through south-east Alaska's Inside Passage or to south-central Alaska, past glaciers.

The climate


During the cruising season, the temperature in the Inside Passage area may get as high as 18C but mostly there will be highs of around 12C. So pack for cold weather outside. There are 14 to 18 hours of daylight, with the most in June and least in September. South-

central Alaska has average temperature highs of 12C in cruise season but averages around 17C in June, July and August. And during these months there are 17 to 18 hours of daylight. It is drier and more pleasant weather in May and early June.

When it's busiest


The busiest time is from mid-June to late August. Most families in North America take their holidays then (there will be more children and teenagers around) and most ships will be full. Ports of call will be busy.

More Alaska:
INSIDE PASSAGE
GUIDE TO CANADA AND ALASKA
FROZEN WONDERLAND
THE IDITAROD DOG SLED RACE
MY FIRST ALASKAN CRUISE

Fluctuating cost


The level of prices reflects demand, of course, and the shoulder seasons of May, early June and September should be least expensive. Book ahead.

Seasonal high spots


Early in the season, there are wildflowers along the Inside Passage and travellers are more likely to see big animals, which are migrating. Calving glaciers tend to be seen more in early June. June, too, for orcas, minke whales and Pacific white-sided dolphins.

The big advantage from mid-June to late August is that there are so many daylight hours. Alaskan autumn comes early - September for colourful foliage and when bald eagles tend to gather. There's also a good chance ofSsnow on the mountains.